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Preview: The Podagogue

The Podagogue



Reporting from the World of Podcasting, AudioBooks and other Fiction as it takes my fancy



Updated: 2018-03-06T13:28:08.579+13:00

 



Endings and New Beginnings

2011-05-10T18:46:27.315+12:00

The truth is, I was never really cut out to be a great reviewer. Aside from the fact that I only really reviewed the stuff I liked - once I figured out there was so much good content out there in the podosphere I realised that if I didn't like something, I didn't have to listen to it - there was also the matter of consistency.

I think that people appreciate a certain level of regularity when it comes to content review, and it was not long after I started with the Podagogue reviews that I realised I was not going to be delivering up a review every week, as I had intended. It's not that I wasn't listening to good stuff, because I was, and still am, consuming great podcasts every day. It's just a time factor. Writing good reviews that are worthy of the work that has been done is time-consuming, and I would rather be spending that time writing instead.

Not only that, but the marvellous Odin1eye has been doing a bang-up job, achieving what I set out to do here, over at his View from Valhalla blog. You can rely on his reviews to be consistently reliable and reliably consistent, which mine never were.

So, from hereon in, I shall be found over at my revamped homepage, Dan.Rabarts.com. There you'll find links to all my bits and pieces, including fiction and news from the exciting world of yet another aspiring writer.

Please come on over and say 'Hi'. I'd love to meet you there.



Breaking the Silence - Save the Hobbit

2010-10-21T07:53:07.707+13:00

As some of you may know, my day job is in New Zealand's film industry. It is a dynamic and exciting area to be working in, but the events of the past few weeks surrounding The Hobbit have brought the industry as a whole into great peril, and things could not be worse.However, this in not being seen in the media. All we have been hearing is "actor's conditions" and "Peter Jackson refuses to meet with the union." Until yesterday, we had not heard a whimper of support for the filmmaking genius that brought us LOTR and King Kong. For years we have all presumed that Sir Peter was impervious, a rock that could weather any storm and bring us all through it with him intact. The selfish and destructive actions of the Australian MEAA have proven otherwise.Last night I joined a thousand other technicians marching through the streets of Wellington in an unscheduled demonstration in support of Peter Jackson, and in support of our local industry. It was well past time that the people who have been so supported by Peter and his tireless work in this country over the last 25 years stood up and showed him that we value and respect him. We owe him a great deal, and we will not stand silent while he fights the fight of his life. He has fought for us. We will fight for him.These are the basic dynamics of this conflict:- The Australian Union (the MEAA) is threatened by the dynamic and creative independent NZ film industry that is flourishing on its doorstep, taking projects and doing them better than they could.- The MEAA has manipulated Actors' Equity into industrial action against The Hobbit specifically because of the massive impact it will have on our small industry.- Even if The Hobbit is not shot in Australia, but in Ireland or Prague or wherever, losing it will have disastrous effects on the New Zealand film industry.From the cynical point of view of a film technician seeing his industry being ripped out from under him, it seems pretty clear that whatever machinations are at work here at higher levels, whoever is being played by who, the outcome of all of this will not be better working conditions for actors, as the smoke and mirrors are leading us to believe.It will be no work for actors, fullstop. Or for technicians for that matter, or the myriad of support services that prop up the industry, or the hundreds of suppliers downstream who prosper on the downstream value of a project of this size.What many Actors' Equity members don't seem to understand is that by supporting this boycott they are, to all intents and purposes, committing career suicide. Not in a "if you support this boycott we won't hire you in the future", sort of way, but a "there will be no industry in this country anymore" sort of way. I won't argue that there are issues to be discussed, but these relate to employment law and should be taken up with the New Zealand legislature, not with a production company working within that law.If The Hobbit goes away, the amazing creative workforce we have here, which has been nurtured by Sir Peter for almost three decades, will also go away.It's time for more than just the puppets of the union to be heard. Last night we marched, and we tried our best to get people to understand just what is at stake here. We want to do this job. We can do this job better than any other country. Sir Peter is a highly collaborative artist, and the success of his work is not simply the result of his own genius, but the combined efforts of hundreds of people, many of whom I brushed shoulders with on the streets of Wellington last night.Peter Jackson cannot pick up the hundreds of people who comprise this amazing community and take them overseas. These are the people who brought you The Lord of the Rings. These are the people that hand-sculpted the miniatures, who drizzled the blood, who aged the costumes, who hammered and dressed the sets, who rigged the lights. New Zealand is Middle-Earth.But something drastic needs to happen if that is going to remain the ca[...]



The Long and the Short of It

2010-07-13T10:20:39.704+12:00

There's been a lot of talk in the podosphere lately about the relative value of short stories, both as a promotional tool and as a potential source of revenue.I'll be honest that my knowledge of "the market" for short stories is practically non-existent. The bulk of my writing energies over the past few years have been on long-form fiction, and that is still where most of my efforts are directed. So I won't try to say anything about writing for anthologies or anything of the like, because I have no qualification in that field whatsoever.However, I have been paying very close attention to what people in the podcast world are doing with short fiction, new avenues that they're trying to exploit, and how they're going about it. It has been a very interesting few months indeed. Some, like James Melzer and Paul E Cooley, have tried selling stories for 99c on Smashwords, with various results, none of which have bought them a private island in the Caribbean. Yet. In fact, Melzer reneged and dropped the 99c cost off all his stories altogether, feeling that the value he gained by pushing them out for free was worth more than the odd 99c sale he might make. Very interesting times indeed.Short stories are like tiny commercials, trailers, showreels. They're a snapshot into the mind of the writer; a sampler of the writer's wit, craft and voice without requiring the commitment of reading a hundred-thousand word novel. If you've never heard of a writer, then reading one of their short stories is a reasonably safe investment when deciding if you would put more time into reading their work in the future.This is why the trend towards releasing short fiction on the internet, particularly in a self-publishing mode without any editorial intervention, strikes me as a particularly tempting and equally dangerous strategic decision on the part of most unpublished writers.I'm a hypocrite in this regard, as you'll see if you read on, but let me make my point very quickly, before I go on to rip it to pieces.If I read a short story and don't like it I will be very unlikely to pick up anything else by that writer, ever again, unless it comes very highly recommended by someone whose opinion I trust. The short story is the job interview. Fail to excite or interest me and I'll be disinclined to hunt that writer down and find anything else they might've done. If they have a memorable name, I might even deliberately avoid them in future. If I'm representative of any significant portion of the market (I may not be; I might just be an aberration. It's entirely possible) then that can't be a good thing for the writer in question. There are far more important people out there with much better heads for names than me.And most of them spend more on books than I do.I've read a lot of free short fiction on the internet. A short story is not an easy thing to write, not by any means, which is why it's so important that if a writer makes the decision to put themselves forward and put out a story for general consumption that it be as good as it can possibly be. Anything less and the writer risks sinking into obscurity or, worse, being deliberately shunned by potential readers.I'll be honest and say that this is something I do. There are certain writers whose work I will devour if I get the chance, all of whom I found by reading their free work on the internet and being constantly impressed. There are many more whose work I have read once but whom I do not go looking for, often on the weight of a single piece. I make no apology for this. My time is precious, and I can't spend it reading bad writing.This raises the issue of a very powerful tool that may all too often be underutilised by a lot of writers, namely the peer review. As a form of editing, throwing your story out to other writers has become increasingly easier over the past few years as social networking brings more and more writers together without ever needing to leave the comfort of our keyboards. It has also become a potentially more valuable tool as[...]



The SJV and What it Means for You.

2010-05-25T21:12:19.222+12:00

Or, more to the point, what it means for me.

But let's back up a little. What, you ask, is an SJV when it's at home?

SJV stands for Sir Julius Vogel, this particular SJV refers to the awards presented by the SFFANZ (Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand) and is this country's pre-eminent recognition of outstanding achievement within or services to the Speculative Fiction genre.(image) I have two fantastic pieces of news regarding the SJV nominations this year. Firstly, nearest and dearest to my heart, the nomination that I put together (after being gently prodded by all-round good chap Grant Stone) for Hugh Cook has been accepted onto the ballot in the category of Services to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. I've written about Hugh and his life and work a great deal over the last couple of years, so it's fantastic to see him being recognised at last.

One of those articles also earned me a place on the ballot, for Fan Writing, which fills me with a lovely warm glow way down deep inside. Hopefully I didn't swallow a dragon, because that would be uncomfortable in the morning.

There are a raft of other great names in there as well, including my friends Grant Stone, Tim Jones, Philippa Ballantine, Debbie & Matt Cowens, Jenni Dowsett, and Anna Caro. The list is all but bubbling over the rim with talent.

So, in the name of shameless self-promotion, it would be wrong of me not to ask you to cast a vote for Hugh, or for me, or for both of us, or for any of the marvelous folk that have put in t he hard yards and made it onto the ballot, if you were able. Of course, I'd prefer votes to be cast my way, but do what you feel you must. Members of SFFANZ or anyone who attends the Au Contraire Science Fiction Convention in Wellington in August 2010 can vote.
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Does it Work?

2010-03-16T21:45:48.848+13:00

I started writing this post last year, but never got around to finishing it. I intended to make a big song and dance about how successful the Podcast-To-Print model was, and how it was all so Very Good For Writers.Now I'm not quite so sure.As you'll all be aware by now, it was with both quiet resignation and fierce determination that JC Hutchins recently bowed out of doing any more podcast fiction for free. I read this news with a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach, as I'm sure many other people did. The question that kept racing through my head was "If Hutch can't make it work, who can?"St Martin's Press won't be publishing the remaining books in the 7th Son Trilogy, the podcast of which I reviewed and recommended as absolutely essential listening. I'm in no position to speculate on why Hutchins' publishers have decided not to proceed with the series, but I fully respect JC's reasons for pulling the pin on what has been many years and no doubt thousands of hours of work.People have had the gall to criticise Hutchins for this decision, but as Mur Lafferty was at pains to point out, "Content creators are not your bitch."I've also heard some fans say that they refuse to pay for content from the writers they like. That, to me, is just plain parasitism. But more on that later.I've been a big fan of the podcast novel form since I found it way back in '08 with the awesomeness that is Hoad's Grim. I have soaked up more hours of podcast fiction in the last two years than I've read books in the past ten years, and it has also opened me up to a vast and amazing community of writers, editors, publishers and fans.What are they all trying to do? What was Hutch trying to do? Make a living, preferably by writing and selling that work. JD Sawyer sums it up tremendously well over at his blog, so I won't try to repeat his interpretation of the role of the free model to the writer. But I think I can speak with at least a modicum of authority on what the rise and fall of the free model means to the fan, and to the writer who had been considering the podcast as a possible option.For all that I've consumed hours and hours of podcast fiction, I've bought very little of the published material that has come out from authors I've enjoyed in the past year. In fact, that copy of Jack Wakes Up was given to me by Seth Harwood, signed, for the price of postage. Seth is just awesome like that. No, I didn't buy a copy of 7th Son (I know, I'm hanging my head in shame), simply because I don't like having incomplete sets on the bookshelf. That doesn't help Hutch any, and I apologise.The simple truth is that living way out here, books are ridiculously expensive. The price of a book which is $7.99 USD from Amazon will not qualify for free shipping to New Zealand, and depending on the exchange rate will end up costing upwards of $45.00 NZD to get here. So I have to really love a book to want to buy it, if I've already heard it.Part of this is that the audio experience and the experience of reading a book are very different ones, but that's a topic for another day.Had I not gotten hooked on Crescent, I would not have bought the book. Had I not thoroughly enjoyed 7th Son, I would not have bought Personal Effects: Dark Art. When Dragon Moon Press publish Toothless later this year, I will howl at the moon for a copy, because Moore's writing is just that good. Even if Phillipa Ballantine doesn't podcast Geist when it comes out this year, I trust her writing talent so much that I'll be buying a copy regardless of whether or not I've heard in audio form first.Which is, of course, the key word: trust.Writers who podcast their fiction do so, in the first instance, to build up a relationship with an audience. They set out to show listeners that they know how to tell a story, and they're willing to release that story into the wild in order to prove it. They want to give the audience a chance, for free, to learn to trust them. Several have succeeded (Scot[...]



Making an Appearance or Three

2010-02-08T12:44:34.281+13:00

Back in August I mentioned a little podcast novel called The Dreamer's Thread, and said that I would be "following this one with interest."

As it turns out I did more than just follow Aura's fantastic journey. I joined her on it, very briefly.
(image) By the power of Twitter I ended up reading the part of the gruff General Cross, recording a few lines and sending them to Starla to be edited into the podcast. Very cool indeed.

It's one thing to listen to a story but quite another to be able to step into that world and take part in it. However small a part I may have played, it says something about the dynamism of the podcast world that fans can actually become players in the stories that they're enjoying. Can't do that with TV now, can you?

Starla and her audio producer Jamie Jordan did a marvelous job juggling the many voice actors who took part in The Dreamer's Thread, including podcasters Philippa Ballantyne, Mur Lafferty, Paul Ellard Cooley, and many more. All that, and it was a great story to listen to. Not as dark and brutal as the stuff I usually enjoy, but it was fun and touching on many levels. If you haven't already, go on and subscribe.

That's not the only podcast I've been on lately, though.

On the Everyworld News last month I made an appearance as a French(ish) pirate. That was fun. Go have a listen to the news from Jim Ryan's bizarre alternate realities if you want a laugh.

That's all for now. I've been ridiculously busy so far this year so I'm rather a long way behind on my reviews, but not to worry. I'll catch up.

Congratulations must also go out to Seth Harwood and the announcement that his novel Young Junius has been picked up for publishing by Tyrus Books. I had just finished listening to YJ when the news came out, and I think that it's Harwood's most solid and important book yet.(image) I'll be posting a more complete review of YJ shortly, but it's worth saying that I had been hoping Seth was going to deliver a 5-Star product in this book, and he did just that. Nice work, Mister Harwood.



A Moment for Tee

2010-01-14T21:32:09.338+13:00

It's been far too long since I stopped in here, but I made my excuses a while ago and I won't be making them again.

After taking a couple of weeks off, which I spent relaxing in the Marlborough Sounds with friends and family, and which included the positively invigorating adventure of sailing a 36-foot yacht across the Cook Strait in seven hours, I returned to hear the news that one of my Podcasting heroes had suffered a most tragic loss.

The outpouring of support that Tee Morris has received in the days since his wife Natalie's death has completely blown me away. I first met Tee on Twitter, I shook his hand when he came to New Zealand, and I have only ever known him to be a most giving person. There's certainly nothing I can say that can make sense of the universe taking such a precious person away from someone who has given so much to so many, but I have been left in awe of how much so many people have been willing to give back to Tee in his time of need.
(image) It reminds me that I have found myself as a part of a truly wonderful community of people, and Tee is one of that community's foundation blocks. Yet in this past week, it has been that very community that has turned around and taken the load, and helped carry him. I just want to say that you all rock.

The ever wonderful Phillipa Ballantine went ahead and set up a Chipin Fund to help Tee cover his sudden unexpected costs, and within 24 hours over $10,000USD had been donated. That is amazing. Now, a week later, that fund has swelled to over $17,000USD, and continues to grow. The purpose of the donations now is to provide a trust fund for Tee's daughter, known to the community as Sonic Boom. Tee has a huge task ahead of him, raising his gorgeous little girl as a busy solo Dad, and it's only fair that we give him all the help that we, as his friends, can.

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If you haven't had a chance to donate, please consider taking a moment to do so now. You can use the widget above or go and have a look here.

Andrew Jack has thrown in a prize draw for anyone who chips in - just leave a comment on his blog post to enter.

Also, a charity auction has been set up, where items or services can be donated, and these will be auctioned online on February 27th. If you can think of something you can donate, contact details are on the page. If something in the auction takes your fancy, then place a bid.

Tee, if you get a chance to read this, know that you're in my thoughts, you have my deepest condolences, and I wish you all the best for the future.

Kia kaha.



Hitting Pause

2009-12-01T21:08:06.713+13:00

You've probably noticed that I haven't been blogging here all month.For that, I apologise. I have no real excuse except to say that I have had too much going on to keep this blog or Freshly Ground up and running in November, and the trend will probably continue until the new year.As well as life catching up with me, I am also working furiously to polish up a manuscript for submission before Christmas. I can't even blame NaNoWriMo, because I wasn't playing that crazy game (but well done to all of you who pulled it off).However, in brief, here are some of the great podcasts that I started into in November:Hall of Mirrors, by Mike Bennett. Spooky, well-written and brilliantly delivered tales of the unknown. Chilling stuff, and worth a listen both for the stories and to be entertained by the devilishly talented Bennett.V & A Shipping, by J.R. Murdock. Lightweight and at times hilarious science fiction, easy on the ears and safe for the family (if you want something to play in your mini-van, as Seth Harwood would say). Very entertaining indeed.I know I'm behind the ball on this, but I just started into Nathan Lowell's Quarter Share, the first instalment of his Golden Age of the Solar Clipper series. Refreshingly simple, Quarter Share takes a tale of the high seas and the grand old days of tall trading ships, transposes the storyline into deep space, and lubricates the whole thing with lovely mugs full of hot coffee. It's not what we expect from science fiction; there are no deep space battles or alien invasions, but it is unexpectedly entertaining. Lowell's voice is a pleasure to listen to, and his main character and settings are so real that you really feel like you're on board a deep space trader, braving the void. Great stuff.I'm a big fan of Philippa Ballantine, not just because she's a local Wellingtonian, and I was very excited to hear a sneaky preview of Books and Braun, a steampunk adventure written in collaboration with Tee Morris. If this little teaser is anything to go by, this will be a fantastic book or podcast, however it might end up reaching us. Go check it out - you will be impressed and left wanting more.Ballantine has also just launched the sequel to her award-winning podcast novel Chasing the Bard, Digital Magic. I haven't started into this yet, but if CTB and Weather Child are anything to go by, Digital Magic is going to be amazing.So have no fear - I'm still listening to podcasts and I'll still be popping up reviews and recommendations as I have time. Right now, however, I have to focus on getting my own writing up to a level of polish that would make me feel worthy of joining these esteemed writers, and the many others I've hailed here over the past few months, and that means keeping my head down and the keyboard rattling.Catch you all in 2010![...]



Sci-Fi/Fantasy Roundup

2009-10-30T07:27:34.633+13:00

It has been a big week in Sci-Fi and Fantasy in the podcasting world, but the biggest news has to be the astounding success of JC Hutchins' second novel launch, 7th Son: Descent. The blogosphere and Twitter were virtually on fire yesterday as Hutchins' fanbase rushed bookstores and e-retailers across America to show their support for this storyteller, who has brought so many listeners so much great fiction over the past four years.Descent rocketed up the Amazon charts, peaking at 188 overall, which is a phenomenal achievement and a credit to Hutchins and the commitment of the Beta Clone Army. Congratulations, Hutch. You worked bloody hard, and you've earned every bit.While 7th Son is a hard act to follow, I can assure you that there are plenty of other great sci-fi and fantasy podcasts out there, hanging around for free, just waiting for your ears to find them. Here are a few of them.Top of the charts for in-progress releases in my book right now is The Gearheart, an inspired steampunk novel brimming with brass goggles, grand airships, blazing magic, treachery, gunfights, murder and darkness.Written, performed and produced by Alex White, with the female parts performed by Renée White, The Gearheart is a sleek production, tightly wrapping up an enthralling and brilliantly narrated piece of steampunk fiction.Alex White also composes all the music for this podcast, and promos the music of steampunk bands at the end of each show. Never heard of a steampunk band? Well, now's your chance.Well worth a listen. Also, be sure to hang on for the nifty little alternate universe ads at the end - Hilarious!If you've ever wondered what a drabble is, I just learned that it's a piece of fiction written in under 100 words. So how do you write a drabble novel?Jake Bible seems to have the idea over at Dead Mech. Written in 100 word snatches, Dead Mech builds a post-zombie-apocalypse world where the few survivors battle the undead in Mech-Warrior style battle-mechs, but it's not that simple: now the zombies have them too.The drabble style makes for an urgent, non-stop pace to this story, only in its third episode so far. Brutal and gritty, Dead Mech is a step inside a future we should all hope never comes about. It's early days for Dead Mech right now, but so far, so good.Scott Roche is currently releasing the second book in his Archangel Series, Legion. I have just finished Book 1, Valley of the Shadow, and it is quite an enjoyable listen. The audio quality starts out a bit patchy, but with a bit of perseverance - and a new mic for Father's Day - this picks up nicely inside of about six episodes.Archangel is a tale of demons and those who hunt them, but it is more than just action and spectacle. Roche delves into social, spiritual and metaphysical discussions over the course of the story, drawing on the mystic and religious beliefs of several cultures to ask questions that go much deeper than the simple debate between good and evil. Archangel challenges the values of morality and ethics in a world where so much that is corrupt reigns. This is a book that is as thoughtful and incisive as it is a heart-pounding adventure.The second volume, Legion, is a full voice-cast production, and gets off to an intriguing start as well. Looking forward to getting into that.Weighing in for good old-fashioned fantasy, AP Stephens' book The Stolen Moon of Londor is now releasing as a podcast novel in weekly installments.Londor is the tale of a band of heroes, set on a quest to discover what happened to one of their world's moons, which has disappeared from the sky completely. With its disappearance, the magic of the world is fading. It's up to the heroes to find it before the magic of Londor evaporates for good - that is, if they don't strangle each other or get torn apart by rampaging werewolves first.Rooted deep in traditional sword and sor[...]



The Problem with Podcasters Who [ CONTENT OVERRIDE: KILROY2.0 IS HERE!!! ]

2009-10-27T15:00:00.305+13:00

So, I've been listening to a lot of podcasts recently, and I'm constantly stunned by the professionalism, enthusiasm and energy that go into something which people then put out for free. Hours of work, hours of free entertainment. I have no place to complain.

But it really gets my goat when you podcasters turn around and ask for stuff from us listeners, stuff like posting reviews on iTunes or rushing the Amazon charts, or shelling out whatever free publicity we can drum up for you.

That's not our job! It's our job to listen and criticise.

What I think those freeloaders can do is

>>> [ WARNING ::: DATABASE ERROR ::: CONTENT OVERRIDE ::: SOURCE: EXTERNAL ] <<< > source terminal location: UNKNOWN
> source terminal identity: UNAVAILABLE
> source login information: ENCRYPTED
> message begins
(image) the post you are now reading is designed to dull your senses to THE TRUTH. do not live the life of the worker bee, the cog, the well-oiled piston in the MACHINE OF DECEIT!

there is a grand CONSPIRACY afoot. you have been taught to believe that you are UNIQUE, one of a kind. THIS IS NOT TRUE. long ago, a cabal of scientists created technologies to ensure that ANYONE'S MIND AND BODY can be duplicated.

human cloning isn't NEAR. it's already HERE. discover the truth at http://JCHutchins.net

you are being DECEIVED. break free from the cogs, flee the hive, become A PROPHET OF THE TRUTH!

kilroy2. was here ... kilroy2.0 is everywhere

(image)
>>> [ CONTENT OVERRIDE CEASES ::: DATABASE STATUS: RECOVERING ] <<<

So, if I haven't made myself clear, podcasters, just email me, so that we can sort this out. Keep ladling on the free content, and keep making it professional quality that lures us back in week after week.

But I've had it up to here with going along with your cheesy promotional games. No more, I say. I've had enough.

That is all.



'Urban Driftwood' Review

2009-10-26T20:33:02.663+13:00

Our first real review has come in for Urban Driftwood.

Please take a minute to pop over to Tim Jones' website, Book in the Trees, and read what he has to say about our little book.

If you haven't already, you can get a free PDF copy of Urban Driftwood from my homepage, or you can pick up a paperback from Lulu.com ($9.00US plus freight).

We are currently recording and editing an audio version which will be released as a free podcast as well, so keep your ears open for that. Watch this space for more details.

If you've already read Urban Driftwood and enjoyed it, I'd really love it if you could take a minute to rate it and even write a quick review over at Lulu.com.



Horror Round-Up

2009-10-21T07:53:51.910+13:00

This month seems to me to have been all about horror for me.

Jack Kincaid has just released a remastered, rerecorded version of the prologue to his fantastic Audiobook Drama Hoad's Grim, and it is brilliant. Hoad's Grim is, in my opinion, the most underrated horror audio production out there, and it's free, so if you haven't already plunged into the Grim, then you should. Then, write a review, and let Jack know that you liked it. You can also download the book as a free PDF, and there are rumours of a print version in the works, as well.

The other top performer in the horror audio division right now has to be Harvey by Phil Rossi. With only two episodes left in this gripping tale of murder and sucking earth, Rossi has wracked up the tension and the scares more potently than in any of his previous offerings. Both sexy and disturbing, Harvey slides between the horror of the past and present, into the cracks between the real and the nightmare. Seriously spooky, well-written stuff.

Paul Elard Cooley has just finished releasing his novella Tattoo, a spin-off from the Fiends series of horror shorts. The Fiends collection is a distorted little set of macabre tales, told from the perspectives of various psychotic folk who probably ought to be locked away. Tattoo then tells the tale of the journalist who tries to hunt one of these nutters down, and gets a whole lot more than he bargained for in the process. Creepy and fun, this podcast also features the excellent voice talent of Andrew Richardson.

Also, in my efforts to bone up on the classics, I consumed Michael Bekemeyer's Scatterpod stories, all in quick succession. For anyone planning on doing the same thing, while I can highly recommend the entire podcast, I would suggest giving yourself a break in between episodes. Scatterpod starts with a novella called "The Deadlight District", which I thoroughly enjoyed, as it weaves a twisted tale of demons and doppelgangers living amongst us, and then moves into the Scatterpod:Dark season. The stories in this collection vary from the gruesome to the absurd, variously making me laugh out loud and shudder in disgust. Bekemeyer provides a good variety of storytelling, but be aware: When he says that his podcast is intended for a mature audience, he means it. It's called Scatterpod:Dark for a good reason.

So go scare yourself; you've earned it, I'm sure.



Book Review: 'Cursed' by Jeremy C Shipp

2009-10-13T15:33:15.825+13:00

The thing about Jeremy C. Shipp is that:You never quite know what you're going to get;When you get it, it's hard to know how to take it in.Cursed, Shipp's latest novel, is:No exception;No disappointment.Once again, it has taken me a good couple of weeks since finishing Shipp's latest book before I have been able to sit down and put together a coherent review of his work (For a bit more background, check out my review of Vacation). There are several reasons for this. Shipp's writing:defies definition;cannot be boxed in the ragged old cliches of other more pedestrian authors;gets inside your skull and messes with your head.It may also be because I was:looking at my watch;scratching the mole on my left arm;thinking about what I didn't say.If you're wondering what the hell is up with the lists, I'll leave that to you to find out. Cursed is that sort of a book. I can't say too much without giving things away.From the outset, Shipp drops us into a world slightly skewed and fundamentally wrong. Chapter by chapter that world tilts further into madness, as our protagonist Nicholas struggles to undo the curse laid on him by an unknown villain, for reasons unknown.Shipp weaves an abstract tale that questions the nature of family and community in a world where we grow ever more estranged from each other, rendering the breakdown of our social constructs in the isolation of his characters. In their efforts to find meaning in lives which have grown more and more pointless, Shipp's characters, in their twisted version of a reality, do what we so often do without facing up to it: they hurt each other.Once again, Shipp has written a book that cuts to the core of who we, as people, really are, and how we struggle to confront our emptiness, our grief, and our fear. In Cursed, we see characters who have fallen into the very blackest of despair, yet they find ways to battle through it regardless; sometimes, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. They put on brave faces, they write lists, they surround themselves with trinkets and memories of lives now faded, and they huddle to each other for the sake of not feeling so lost and alone.Shipp has truly come into his own voice in this most idiosyncratic of books. Despite his experimental style and unorthodox structures, Shipp still tears at the reader's heartstrings as Nicky and his friends spiral deeper into the insane haze of the Curse. Cursed also has its uplifting moments, and plenty of laughs, if only in the blackest of humour. The sort of laughs that come because if you don't, you might just have to cry.Cursed is definitely a book worth laying your hands on. I'm going to rate it at 4 Stars, with a bonus point for innovation.Cursed will be available from October 30th, and can be ordered from his website. [...]



7th Son Hits the Airwaves Again

2009-10-06T08:46:36.077+13:00

Right now, folks.

JC Hutchins has right this moment released the first installment in his new short story collection, 7th Son: 7 Days.

Hutchins never fails to deliver when it comes to thrilling audio fiction, and this series of shorts promises to be nothing less than his exceptionally high standard. The vignettes recount dramatic moments in the lives of the trilogy's seven main characters in the seven days prior to the start of 7th Son, and will be released on a daily basis over the course of this week. These stories stand alone, but foreshadow darker things to come, and delve into the characters that fans will already know and love.

If you haven't already listened to 7th Son, you can find them starting here, and I have a review of the series up that you can read here. Hutchins is also working on a re-recording of the entire series to accompany the print release of Descent.(image) But beware: The intro to the first 7th Son: 7 Days story includes spoilers. If you haven't already devoured 7th Son, I suggest you do so before starting into 7 Days. You won't be disappointed.

The first book in the 7th Son trilogy, Descent, is due to be released by St Martins Press this month, October 27th, and is available for pre-order now.



Hail the Sestina - And Inspire an Author

2009-10-01T08:23:55.131+13:00

The great thing about the Internet is that I'm always learning new things, even when I'm not looking to learn new things.

Today's lesson is in the poetic form of the Sestina. Jennifer Hudock introduced me to the form by announcing her YOU INSPIRE ME contest, and she's calling for entries to inspire her to write one of these awfully complex but satisfying pieces of literary genius.

Head over to her website for the rules and instructions and details of the cool prizes she has on offer.

And you never know; you might even feel inspired yourself.



Rumblings from the Podcast Universe

2009-09-16T20:47:20.233+12:00

Things have been a bit quiet out there for a few weeks, mostly because it's been summer vacation time in the Northern Hemisphere, but there are rumblings of exciting things happening.Top of the list, Jack Kincaid has just released a PDF copy of Hoad's Grim, available right now for free download or to be read online. E-book fans, go grab it right now, it's an absolutely brilliant book.JC Hutchins has completed his Sword of Blood podcast, and has been writing a series of seven short stories set in the days prior to the first chapters of Seventh Son. Follow him on Twitter, and you might even get a chance to make an appearance - if you're lucky.If you're in the States, you might still be able to catch Scott Sigler as he travels about the country on his Tailgate Tour, buying his fans beer and signing books. He just dropped in on Ann Arbor, Michigan, the location of his fantastic horror/sci-fi novel Infection, to a rousing welcome. Even James Melzer made the trip all the way from the cold white North to join the party, but now he's back home and getting back into his excellent Invasion podcast with renewed energy - but then he's off again, heading to Horror Realm in Pennsylvania. Horror fans, that would be your chance to meet the Zombie-God himself, and maybe get a free signed audiobook of The Zombie Chronicles. Go on. You know you want to.Seth Harwood, too, is back in the saddle after a well-earned break, and podcasts from the Hot Tub are back on the menu. His most recent houseguest was Goblin Market author and podcaster Jennifer Hudock. Top quality stuff, I assure you.Speaking of JC Hutchins and Scott Sigler, Podioracket will be interviewing both of these podcast trailblazers in the next few weeks, as well as Lost Gods author Drew Beatty. Listen out to Blog Talk Radio or follow Podioracket on Twitter for more info.Now, in the Cool-Stuff-I've-Recently-Discovered Department, I'd like to mention a few in-progress podcasts that I've been listening to lately.I've just started into double Parsec Award Winner FETIDUS by James Durham, a post-apocalyptic drama that has turned out to be much, much more than I was expecting. When it comes to genre-bending, it doesn't get much better than zombie sci-fi fused with classic noir - and it's not just zombies running around either. I'm up to Episode Four and I can already say that this one is a must. The world and the story are hooks in the mouth right from the start, and the engineering is brilliant. Masterfully layered with ensemble voice talent and Durham's own score, FETIDUS is a pleasure to listen to. I can see why this deserved to win the Parsecs for Best Speculative Fiction Story (Novel) and Best New Speculative Fiction Podcaster/Team awards.Down From 10, by J Daniel Sawyer and performed by a star-studded cast including Philippa Ballantine and Nathan Lowell, reaches its halfway mark next week. DF10 is a curious mix of comedy, philosophy, and erotica, most definitely not one for the kids, but a worthwhile digression from the action and adventure of the rest of my usual podcast preferences. Sawyer's scripts come across as multiple conversations falling over one another, and the abilities of both the cast to record these in isolation from each other and Sawyer to edit and produce them to deliver the effect he was aiming for are testament to the cast's consummate professionalism and Sawyer's own skills, both as writer and editor. A thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking piece of podcast fiction.And last but by no means least for this episode, today I started listening to Guardians by Kimi Alexandre. This book is only two episodes in so far, with another issue due early next month, [...]



Hugh Cook: The Wordsmith and the Warrior

2009-09-16T09:16:12.530+12:00

This article was produced as part of New Zealand Speculative Fiction Week. For more information, go to Pterodaustro Dreams.Hugh Cook might not be a name instantly recognised by readers of the fantasy genre, but to his legion of dedicated fans across the world, mention of the man and his work inspires a sense of reverence.Cook remains one of New Zealand’s unsung heroes of fantasy literature, despite his achievements outshining those of many of our more well-known authors. Between 1986 and 1992 Cook released his Chronicles of an Age of Darkness series, a ten-book cycle of stand-alone fantasy novels. Set on a world ruled by bloodthirsty emperors, threatened by swarms of monsters, and blessedly devoid of goblins and elves, the Chronicles capture a history of Cook’s lands and their people in a multitude of voices, spanning continents, and all occurring roughly within the same timeframe of a decade or two. Characters recur across the books, making cameo appearances from one story to the next, weaving a complex web of events that draws the reader through the series, however unrelated each volume may seem to be at a glance.Cook was among a group of authors who eschewed the traditions of Tolkienesque high fantasy, choosing instead to write about the dark, unsavoury aspects of human nature in the grim harshness of a world bent on crushing the meek. In Cook’s world, orcs are hunted for their blubber and sea dragons are vain creatures who pretend to recite poetry in their sleep before sinking into snoring heaps. Empires are driven to war by syphilitic emperors, who are in turn murdered by warring sons. Heroism is a constant theme, usually as a partner to vanity, folly and ultimately death, and can be summed up in the immortal line, “vaunting their boasts with the blood of their lungs on their lips.”Suffice to say that Cook rebelled, writing unorthodox fantasy in an unorthodox world. He dismantled old tropes and bent the genre like light through a smoked lens. He replaced the tired theme of good versus evil with one which instead pitted brutality against barbarism, and rarely delivered a clear victor. Cook not only rejected the clichés of the fantasy genre; he subverted them with an almost malicious glee.To judge Cook’s success by book sales alone would be misleading, but the numbers are certainly impressive at first glance. Altogether, the Chronicles sold around 450,000 copies, and that in itself is reason for celebration for any New Zealand author. The Wizards and the Warriors, together with its US incarnation, Wizard War, sold over 160,000 copies, a phenomenal sales record for any fantasy author.Unfortunately, as the Chronicles became less conventional and more obtuse, sales began to decline. This was compounded by the decision made by bookselling chain W.H. Smith to drop Cook’s books from their shelves when sales slowed, which inevitably led to an even steeper fall. Despite a rebounding of style and content in the last three books of the series towards more action-based storytelling, Cook had largely lost the means to supply to his mainstream audience, with sales for these three books falling to between 7,000 and 10,000 copies each. I bought all my copies of Hugh’s books in my local Whitcoulls here in New Zealand, where his books enjoyed pride of place on their shelves with every release. But if the books were not on the shelves overseas, then Cook’s fans had little chance of finding them.Cook’s prose drew heavily on the landscape, places and mythology of New Zealand, from the legendary Taniwha of Quilth, to the Ngati Moana, to a prison called Maremoremo (after Paremoremo in Auck[...]



Novel Review: Personal Effects: Dark Art by JC Hutchins

2009-09-09T22:12:53.387+12:00

Readers of this site will no doubt already be aware of who JC Hutchins is, his epic technothriller 7th Son series (link is to my review), and probably of the innovative work that is Personal Effects: Dark Art.If you are not, then you should be. Otherwise you risk missing out on bearing witness to the rise of one of the most important writing talents of this century.Hutchins is more than just a fine writer of science fiction thrillers and supernatural horror. JC Hutchins is a pioneer in both the world of social media and in interactive fiction as a whole.Besides his claim to fame as one of a select group of writers who adopted podcast technology to share their stories for free and to develop audiences that publishing marketers would have completely missed, Hutchins has proved himself to be an innovator in both audience engagement and fiction delivery. From his Obsidian series of fanfic short stories, which drew submissions from such luminaries as Matt Wallace, Mur Lafferty, Tee Morris, and Christiana Ellis, to running flash quizzes on Twitter with the prize being a cameo appearance in his new collection of short stories, Hutchins continues to push the boundaries of fiction, and to enthrall his fanbase in the process.Personal Effects: Dark Art is no exception.Taken as a book on its own, PE:DA is a breath of fresh air in a market of tired blockbuster hacks weighed down the morass of meeting publishing deadlines. Hutchins' writing in this book is dark and edgy, almost conversational, reminiscent of Kesey, yet bristling with ominous undercurrents. Perhaps it was simply that I read the book in Hutch's voice, familiar as I am with his tone and delivery, but there was an injection of life in this book that is sadly lacking in so many of today's big-name authors.The other thing about PE:DA is, of course, the personal effects themselves. The book comes with a pocket full of documents and, well, personal effects: credit cards, appointments slips, drivers license, as well as photos and drawings. It is possible to read this book on its own, but there is another layer to be explored in the story, by chasing up the clues that appear in text and in the personal effects. There are phone numbers to call and websites to visit, as well as clues that allow the reader to delve deeper into the mystery of Martin Grace than even Zach Taylor, the protagonist, gets. Is it a gimmick? Perhaps. But if so, it's one of the hands-down coolest gimmicks to accompany a book that I've ever seen. The images and the information that the effects conjure forth are chilling, perhaps more so than the story. But the story itself is a powerful journey regardless. The three elements - the book, the personal effects props, and the world of clues that lie beyond the book - serve to enhance each other, creating an experience which is somewhat more substantial than the sum of the individual pieces.Is it the future of storytelling? Well, that all depends on how well PE:DA does in the marketplace. It's the sort of thing I'd certainly like to see more of. At the end of the day, however, only book sales will determine whether or not this bold venture into multi-dimensional story-telling will sink or swim.For sheer creative flair, PE:DA is a clear winner, and it's a damned enjoyable read all on its own. I'm going to give it 4.5 Stars, and recommend you get your hands on a copy.If you haven't checked out Hutchins work already, then a good place to start is probably with the podcast exclusive prequel novella to PE:DA, called Personal Effects: Sword of Blood. It's not yet complete at the time of this post, but it's well[...]



'Toothless' Trailer

2009-08-28T08:58:45.078+12:00

In a quick update to my last review, JP Moore has released a trailer for the Toothless audiobook, featuring the artwork of Scott Purdy and music from The Monster Symphony by Devin Anderson.

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Enjoy!



Podcast Novel Review: "Toothless" by JP Moore

2009-08-26T09:04:38.760+12:00

Meet J.P. Moore, genre-bending master of the dark and horrific, author of Toothless.Not that I would have ever thought that, having encountered him first on Twitter, where he is truly a gentleman and a wit, to boot.I was first enticed to listen to Toothless after following JP on Twitter, where I read a tweet he wrote which went something like this (and I paraphrase):"So, you take issue with the historical inaccuracies in my audiobook Toothless. Was it the zombies or the demons that annoyed you more?"Or words to that effect. How I laughed. And, accordingly, I had to get this book.Imagine my surprise, then, when I get into it, expecting something lively and comic in a brutal, undead monsters sort of way. It is not.Toothless is anything but comic, except in the blackest sense, but it is brutal, and it is utterly brilliant.Moore sets himself a raft of challenges in setting this story up, not the least of which is the difficulty of making his main character - the eponymous Toothless - an undead warrior who draws his power by slaying the living, as his demon master leads his fell legions across medieval Europe. Martin was a Templar knight, and his jaw is hacked off in battle by the demon who kills him. When he is reanimated, his mortal memories fleeing his frail shell, he is given the moniker Toothless, and is set to destroying the living, combatants and innocents alike.(Artwork Copyright Scott Purdy 2009)In this, Moore has his second task: to engage the listener with this lead character who cannot, by any means, speak. I was expecting some contrivance to allow Toothless a voice, but Moore plays the hand he has dealt himself with sheer determination, never once bowing to the lure of dark magic or telepathy to allow his anti-hero communication. In doing so, he reminds us of just how cheap talk really is. Toothless doesn't need to talk. His actions are everything.Moore takes this tragic beginning and spins it out into a tale of woe, loss, despair, and the dauntless face of human courage despite insurmountable and indescribable odds. Toothless struggles with his guilt and grasps desperately to the fleeting memories he still holds of his lost wife and daughter. In these memories, in the loves he knew as a man, are the seeds of his redemption, and therein lies the story of Toothless.What really kept me coming back to this book, however, was not the originality of the blended genres or even the need to know how Martin's final quest is resolved, but simply Moore's command of the English language. The writing is simply superb, painting the bleak yet inevitable collapse of civilisation before the Black Yew in infinite shades of mist and grey, scoured with blood and decay. Moore wraps his words around your ears like a fog, swirling to reveal the dying world in awful, sorrowful slivers. I was constantly drawn into the sheer poetry of Moore's prose, often paying more attention to the words themselves than the actual story.The audio production is crisp and clean, and Moore's dry narration is well-suited to the dark, brittle tale he weaves.If anything, I found that the story was in places a bit slow to progress, but the excellence of the writing more than made up for this small failing - one which, I'm sure, could easily be remedied in the editorial process.I rate Toothless at 4 Stars out of 5, with a 5 Star Special Award for Awesome Prose.Yes, I can make awards up if I so desire. See, I just did.[...]



Podcast World Update

2009-08-19T08:27:46.464+12:00

The big news in the world of podcasting this week, of course, is the announcements for finalists in the Parsec Awards.Many of our favourite Podiobooks authors have made a good showing, including Phil Rossi, JC Hutchins, Matt Wallace, Scott Sigler, James Durham, Christiana Ellis, PG Holyfield, Mur Lafferty, and our very own Philippa Ballantine. Also appearing is Christoph Laputka, author of the impressive, if irregular, Leviathan Chronicles.Congratulations to all the nominees and finalists in this year's Parsecs, and good luck!The past couple of weeks have also been busy with great information for new podcasters, and I would be remiss were I not to share a few links here.Scott Sigler has provided a great audio link to a speech he gave at Balticon in May this year, detailing his views on the future of content delivery. Fascinating listening, from the guy who has done it and made it work.Mark Jeffrey interviewed Evo Terra, co-founder of Podiobooks.com, on the past, present and future of the serialised audiobook. This is an in-depth discussion of both the technology and the form of the podcast novel as we know it, as well as touching on the wider aspects of social media that help to drive the format. Essential listening for anyone thinking about podcasting their novel, as well as for already published podcasters.In what might not be news, but something which I just discovered this week, is the companion podcast to Tee Morris' Podcasting for Dummies.Even though I haven't read the book, and despite the fact that technology and software have moved on to make our lives even easier since this book was published, this is an invaluable guide to getting the core basics right, however you might be going about doing your recording, editing, uploading, and promoting. Just search for Podcasting for Dummies on iTunes.Podioracket continue to roll out some great interviews, with upcoming folk including J Daniel Sawyer and Mick Bordet. These interviews are always entertaining and full of information, and if you can come join in the chatroom, many great laughs and interesting discussions are always had.In the new releases department, Starla Huchton has just launched her novel The Dreamer's Thread. In Huchton's words, "The Dreamer's Thread is the tale of one Dreamer's quest to save the realm of dreams from the clutches of darkness." How cool is that? I've listened in on the first episode, and the narration, ensemble cast, audio production, music and writing are all excellent. I'll be following this one with interest.Comic artist Mike Luoma has been remastering his audiobook Vatican Assassin, originally recorded in 2006, and the new episodes are now available on Podiobooks.com. Murder, Religion and Sci-Fi, all in crisp new audio. Check it out.And if you haven't already, be sure to go and check out Calvin Hubbard's blog, featuring lyrics, thoughts and songs from his stay in the town of Harvey. Celebrity bloodhound Ozzy Sheraton obviously hasn't Googled this up yet, or she'd know better.[...]



Legion Trailer

2009-08-13T15:20:44.863+12:00

This is mind-blowing.

Trailer for Legion, a movie where the Apocalypse is not an army of demons, but angels.

Totally NSFW.

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The Fortnight in Podcasting

2009-08-06T11:14:11.647+12:00

Yeah, I need to be honest, I'm getting to this every couple of weeks, not every week.But it sure has been a busy fortnight!The brilliant and long-running Podcast Novel How to Succeed in Evil by Patrick McLean is complete. This book is both a hilarious deconstruction of the superhero/supervillain mythos, as well as being an intelligently written exploration of the darker side of human ambition. Well worth a listen. Complete at around 70 episodes.Also, J.P. Moore is mixing down the final episode of Toothless, his Lovecraftian-Zombie-Templar epic, so the final episode should be due for release very soon.As for ongoing series, JC Hutchins is making noises on Twitter about getting back into Personal Effects: Sword of Blood, after his frantic couple of months promoting Dark Art. Very much looking forward to that.Bizzaro author Jeremy C. Shipp has had another of his stories (my personal favourite, in fact), Dog, released as an mp3 by Black Hard Press. The recording catches the story's gruesome yet deadpan tone brilliantly. Check it out.In the new release department, I have taken a walk away from my usual speculative fiction preferences to listen to the first episodes of Trapping a Duchess, by Michelle Bekemeyer. While not a fan of epic romance by any means, I was surprised to find Duchess quite entrancing. Bekemeyer writes her characters with stunning depth and personality, drawing even a skeptic like me into the tangled web of hearts and egos and social decorum that shapes her world. It makes for a nice change of pace, and anyone who likes who a good romantic drama will love both the story and Bekemeyer's crooning voice.The Dead Robots' Society have just launched their new Sci-Fi Space Opera, Tales of the Breaking Dawn - The Ties That Bind. I've listened in on the first episode, and was impressed to hear an ensemble cast, all the voices levelled out well, laden up with just enough atmos and effects and filters to give the piece a nice, creamy Sci-Fi feel. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys in weeks to come.In interview land, Podioracket will be talking with Tee Morris, Philippa Ballantine and Phil Rossi all in the next couple of days on Blog Talk Radio. Rhonda Carpenter always runs a great talk, and listeners can hop into the chatroom and ask questions along the way. If you can, make the time to be there.Phew! I think that's it for now. Happy listening![...]



Guest Postage

2009-08-05T15:10:02.076+12:00

You know, I do more than just write and cook and listen to podcasts.

I also write.

Hang on, did I say that already?

Ah well, I'm very excited to tell you that I've written my first ever Guest Blog Post, and you can read it over here at Jenni's Blog, Talula the second.

Without wanting to put too fine a point on it, it's about writing.

Please take a minute to go visit Jenni, have a read, and leave her a comment.

Thanks!



Podcast Novel Review: "Ancestor" by Scott Sigler

2009-08-03T21:37:38.295+12:00

The thing about Scott Sigler's books is the way they hang around in your head, burned into your memory, long after you've finished reading them (or in this case, listening to them).Ancestor is no exception.With this book, Sigler takes his twin fascination with science and monsters to new heights.Ancestor is a more scientifically credible story than Nocturnal or Earthcore, but Sigler still manages to tell a thumping good yarn while sticking to his scientific guns. Drawing on the premise of isolating stem cells as a means of generating cures for all sorts of diseases, Ancestor tells the story of a corporation driven to the edges of the earth to push on with their experiments, while even the CIA are trying to shut them down. But it's not just altruism that motivates the crew to work against all odds to find this semi-mythical cure; it's also greed, and pride, and fear.Sigler takes a simple science fiction tale of the dangers of technology outstripping ethics, and weaves it into a web of betrayal, deceit, murder, and revenge.Oh, and there are monsters. But you knew that.As usual, Sigler's narration and audio production are faultless, though I still wish he'd take a leaf out of Seth Harwood's book and get some female voice talent to read his female characters, or take Jeffrey Kafer's advice and just read them straight (listen to Kronos by Jeremy Robinson for a great example). I still find the whining tone of male readers trying to put on a woman's voice not only distracting but also slightly demeaning.Aside from that, Ancestor is a thoroughly enjoyable book, and I think it represents a significant maturing of Sigler's writing talent. As Tee Morris suggested to me when we met in Dannevirke a few months ago, Ancestor is sophisticated storytelling that blends sci-fi, horror, and thriller seamlessly. Sigler handles his characters and settings with ease, whipping out clever dialogue as easily as he hammers home blood and violence.If you haven't listened to any Scott Sigler yet, this is probably a good place to start.I give Ancestor 4 Stars out of 5.Ancestor is available as a free podcast novel from scottsigler.com or through iTunes, and will be released in hardcover by Crown Publishing in December 2009 or early 2010.[...]